I’m at a yoga retreat in The Berkshires and I’ve succumbed to some sort of stomach bug. This retreat was supposed to be my getaway from the city, my time to reflect, my time to slow down and recharge. Why did I have to get sick? Why am I stuck in my room for most of the weekend?
I just threw up for the first time in years. The last time I threw up, alcohol was the catalyst. In my past life, I drank to excess, puked, then drank some more. This correlation between drinking and vomiting happened so frequently that I eventually developed some tricks on how to refrain from throwing up: swallow saliva repeatedly so it can’t come up, take another shot and forget about it (until later), or dance to burn it off. All of these tactics may sound insane, but in that state of mind, I thought that these practices kept me afloat in a world where I was drowning. Worst of all was my favorite…
Puke & Rally
Verb: Vomiting (voluntarily or not) in order to continue or begin partying
((Courtesy of UrbanDictionary.com))
No matter how much effort I put into my appearance, my night would often end with a stumble into the bathroom and make-up running down my face. After purging, I would look into the toilet and see everything I ate for dinner. This was usually not much since I “had to save room for the booze”. I would look into what I just ejected from my body and see chunks of food, aspirin (I was being proactive!), and birth control. I would flush it, tell myself I felt better, and stand up in front of the mirror. The dead soul looking back at me had become all too familiar. My make-up was ruined. Eyeliner was coming down my cheeks. Mascara was smeared towards my eyebrows. I would pull out my make-up bag and attempted to work some magic. I thought I made myself look as good as new, but who the hell knows. I was hardly in any state to judge a beauty contest. My friends were just as drunk as I was, so they wouldn’t have noticed.
My relationship to throwing up was similar to my relationship with blacking out – it was just part of drinking. I didn’t know that it wasn’t a given. I didn’t know that most people didn’t drink this way. I eventually became so “good” at drinking that I no longer needed to throw up to keep going.
For years, I dedicated my life to my relationship with alcohol. I took pride in it. My lifestyle reflected my work. I liked being able to drink people under the table. I liked making fun of men when they couldn’t drink whiskey on the rocks like I could. I made fun of girls who got drunk after two drinks and would say something snarky like “I remember my first beer”. People would laugh at my joke and I would feel better about myself. I even looked back on the time of not being able to hold my liquor as my “training days”.
For me, a major key to sobriety is being aware of who and what I surround myself with. I have jobs (at lululemon and NY Yoga & Life Magazine) that strengthen my priorities: health and wellness. My community is filled with people who enjoy yoga, tea, holistic living, and new adventures. Now I realize that this approach was also a major key to staying drunk. I surrounded myself with people who were also lost, and we felt found in a bar. I worked in a job (bartending) that strengthened my priorities: drinking.
The life I led was incredibly dangerous. I didn’t care about anything other than partying. I’ve made significant damage to my brain, liver, and kidneys. My memory is terrible. Throwing up birth control pills before they could dissolve put me at risk for unwanted pregnancy countless times. Frequent vomiting may have damaged my esophagus, the enamel on my teeth, and digestive system. Now, 30 and sober I’m working through years of denial and beginning to practice self care, not in a bottle of Jack.
Despite the smiles in photos I posted, I wasn’t happy. Despite the effort I put into building up a tolerance, I wasn’t “training”. Despite it all, I wasn’t even living.